Family Law BC: What is a JCC and why do I need one?
Matthew Katsionis, Vancouver family lawyer
If your family law case is going through Supreme Court in BC, one of the earliest steps you will take is attending at a judicial case conference (JCC). A JCC is a one-hour mediation with a judge or master of the Supreme Court. This step is mandatory if you want your divorce or family law case to continue proceeding through the court system. The same type of case conference also occurs in Provincial Court, but there it is referred to as a Family Case Conference (FCC).
Clients in Vancouver family law cases often have questions about the JCC and FCC process. Here are some answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:
Is a JCC Confidential?
Yes, a JCC or an FCC is confidential. Anything you say at a JCC or FCC will not be used against you in court. Therefore, the judge attending the JCC or FCC will encourage you to speak freely and openly, and to not be afraid to discuss settlement options. However, the confidentiality of the JCC process can be limited if there are threats of violence, but it is very rare that anybody will make threats of violence in front of a judge.
What Can the Judge Do?
The judge is there to be a mediator and to facilitate resolution on your family law matters. The judges and masters who attend at JCC’s and FCC’s are generally motivated to find areas of agreement and resolve issues that can otherwise clog up the family court system. However, a judge cannot make an order that is not agreed upon or consented to by the parties in the JCC or FCC. Often the judge or master attending the JCC or FCC will make recommendations about how to proceed with the divorce or family law case and give the parties some idea of how a particular issue may play out in court if an agreement is not reached.
What happens at a JCC?
In most cases, you will be sitting at a table in the front or back of the courtroom with your family lawyer on one side, your spouse or partner on the other side with their family lawyer, and the judge or master at the head of the table. The lawyer of the party who commenced the divorce or family law action usually speaks first to give a background of the case and their client’s position, with the other lawyer following and doing the same for their client. From there, the judge will focus on you and your spouse, and hear your position on the issues and get your perspective.
How do I get the most out of my JCC?
You want to be well prepared going into a JCC. Your BC family lawyer should have a meeting with you in person or over the phone in advance of the JCC to discuss what can be done by way of settlement or agreement and what your position is on various issues. You know your situation better than anyone and it is important that you come to the JCC or FCC ready to discuss the most pressing issues in your case. Generally, at the JCC the parties will discuss interim solutions on parenting issues, child support, spousal support and the disclosure of documentation. Oftentimes spouses discuss who will be living in the family home, how vehicles will be used and how debts will be paid.
What if nothing is settled at the JCC?
If the parties are still too far apart to settle any family law issues, a JCC is still a useful way to address issues that may help your matter move forward such as the exchange of financial disclosure. It is also an opportunity to speak about the next steps in your divorce or family law matter such as mediation, examination for discovery or trial.
The Vancouver family lawyers at Crossroads Law attend JCCs and FCCs regularly and know about how to get the most out of the process to help your BC family law file move towards resolution. Also, the family lawyers at Crossroads Law provide legal coaching and unbundled legal services if you choose to represent yourself in court.